Although torrential rains poured down on Cole Camp’s historic Centennial Fair Friday night, all was not lost because the sun came out Saturday, bringing crowds of happy people.
From apple-peeling contests to bale-tossing, flower-fluffing, bundle-tossing and dancing the German polka, the streets were busy with old-fashioned fun.
At noon, women and men lined up to peel apples in the middle of Main Street. Nancy Balke, of Lenexa, Kansas, took the championship in the women’s division for a 31-inch unbroken peel. Men and women also competed in straw bale-tossing and even a good-old-game of water balloon-tossing.
Children could enter the pedal pull contest at 1 p.m. and youth could enter the super teen contest at 1:15 p.m. Teens proved their strength by bucking hay, carrying five-gallon buckets of water and hammering five nails into a board at the finish line.
Fair Board President Earl Theisen said he was happy to see the big crowd Saturday and concluded it was possibly due to divine intervention.
“It’s going really well,” he said while prepping for the fair queen reception.”This morning we had a huge 5K run crowd, the coon dog show went great. I think what it is, is that people have seen that somebody up above has cleaned the streets and everything last night for us, and then they all came back this morning.
“Some have said ‘I went home last night because of the rain, but the good thing is I got home at 10 o’clock, and I came back this morning feeling a lot better,’” he added. “They got rested. There are long lines for the rides already. You see a lot of kids.”
He noted that on Friday many people didn’t bring their children because of the weather forecast.
“So they have this afternoon or tonight to use their wristbands,” he added.
Friday night the fair was fortunate. Rain began around 10 p.m., after the Grand Parade and after the free entertainment.
“We got 60 minutes of that in,” Theisen said of the entertainment. “I left town about 1 o’clock in the morning and it was raining hard.”
On Saturday, German culture was alive in the Jaycee Beer Garden with the Loehnig German Band, from Hermann. As the band played the polka at 1 p.m. couples began dancing. Married 57 years, Melvin and Pat Propst, of Jefferson City, danced their way around in the Saturday sunshine.
Pat Propst said they had been following the band around the world since 1975 and had recently danced in Germany and Ireland to the band’s German melodies.
On Saturday afternoon, the Cole Camp Fair Queens’ reception, honoring all the past fair queens, was hosted in American Legion Post 305.
“What we did was try to bring back what it used to be,” Theisen said. “Like doing things on the street and doing shows on the street, and inviting people back.”
This year the fair board invited all the living fair queens back for the centennial celebration. Thaney Brockman, of Cole Camp, a 1991 queen, said they were expecting 37 out of the 55 living queens at the reception. In all total, the fair has had 57 queens; two are deceased.
Brockman added that when she was queen they wore a cape not a sash. The cape was passed down to the next queen.
Elaine Friedly, the 1969 queen, of Iona, was talking with Vicki Heimsoth, the 1970 queen, of Kansas City, and Cathy Kullman, the 1971 queen, of Stover, at the reception.
Friedly said she was glad they had name tags.
“They said to bring your sash, but who has a 47-year-old sash,” she said smiling. “Our’s were just ribbon with glue and glitter put on there.”
The women agreed they were pleased the fair was hosting the queens’ reception.
“I think it’s neat,” Heimsoth added.
Kullman added that she wouldn’t have seen Heimsoth this year if it hadn’t been for the queens’ reception.
Theisen noted that the oldest living fair queen, Ruth Balke, 1952, of Cole Camp, would be in attendance for the reception.
“We had nine years where we didn’t have a queen contest,” he added. “Then they reorganized it and started back again in ’62. Then from 1962 until today it’s been every year.”
He added that the Cole Camp Jaycees helped organize the restart of the queen pageant in 1962.
Theisen planned to present a large plaque with all the queens’ names to the women during the reception. After the close of this year’s fair the plaque will hang in the Fair Building. He emphasized that he wanted them to know they are appreciated.
“Once a Cole Camp Fair Queen, always a Cole Camp Fair Queen,” he said.
Theisen added that he’s enjoyed this year’s fair immensely.
“I enjoy doing it — I’ve been on the board for 19 years, and I’ve been president for seven years,” he noted. “You have a passion … I like to see people have fun. When I walk through the streets and see people laughing and kids having fun, that’s what we work all year for.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.